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Faces of Fort Cavazos: Rodney Cooper

Posted at 4:38 PM, Nov 01, 2023

KILLEEN, Texas — Several people join the military to feel like they’re making a difference, and some find ways to continue making a difference after their service.

These are people like Rodney Cooper — retired U.S. Army veteran and math teacher at Charles Patterson Middle School in Killeen.

He's a native Texan from the small town of Crockett, Texas.

”I had so many relatives, but we were poor,” Cooper said.

“It was a poor environment, and education was my plan to get out of that poor environment.”

Through hard work and dedication, he earned football and academic scholarships to the University of Houston, but he met an Army recruiter his senior year.

”I signed up to go into the Army and went into what we called a Delayed Entry Program,” Cooper said.

“I did a year of college at University of Houston on the academic scholarship before actually going into the Army.”

He went on to serve 20 years in uniform before diving into his second passion — teaching.

He transitioned from leading Army soldiers to educating Army kids.

”We focus so much on what we do as soldiers, our deployments, and all these things but to see it from the lives of the kids whose parents are deploying, really gets you to have that compassion,” Cooper said.

It’s that compassion that leaves lasting impressions on everyone around him.

”There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get a hug from Mr. Cooper, that kids don’t get hugs from Mr. Cooper, that he’s not smiling in the hallway," said Principal of Charles E. Patterson Middle School in Killeen, Christina Harris.

"He brings joy to anyone who walks through the building."

It’s through that lens of love that Mr. Cooper shares a message for all his students.

”You can do anything that you put your heart to — it's all about self-control, self-discipline, and having that self-confidence,” Cooper said.

"Understand that I will always be there, no matter if it’s this year or 10 years down the road, to always give you that advice.”

Rodney Cooper served two decades in the Army and deployed three times to Iraq.

Now he proudly serves the kids of his community in Mr. Cooper’s math class.